1. Scotland Bustour » Grounded Traveler
    January 17, 2011 @ 7:16 pm

    […] tours through them. Really this was a highlight of my trip in Edinburgh. For me this is the kind of museum style authenticity that feels fun to walk through. The tours are small groups due to the cramped places, so you get a […]

  2. Natalia
    January 1, 2011 @ 11:34 am

    I think some of it is also Western selfishness on our part – we want things kept ‘authentic’ and pristine and quaint, yet there we are with our modern gadgets, having flown on our modern planes, from our modern houses that are not the same as our grandparents. I am not saying we (as in the general ‘we’) should not do what we can to save indigenous cultures, but to expect the rest of the world to live an essentially backward life for our entertainment while we take advantage of every change towards a ‘modern’ world is unfair.
    Note – I am just writing in broad generalisations about the masses of people who travel, not you or any other commenters Andrew! Great post.

    • Andrew
      January 2, 2011 @ 2:13 pm

      Great comment Natalia. I wanted to write something in that direction, but was a little scared how it would be taken. Good on you.
      I wonder if there is a sense in the western mind that knows that not everything in our modern march toward progress that is good. That we yearn for a ‘simpler’ life and time somehow. Even though hardly any of us would enjoy living in this simpler time without internet or planes..
      It seems a bit linked to that concept of museums. We have our canned/buildinged museums that present things. For most this is fine, but you get a traveler that urges to go see stuff. They want to see an uncanned version of a museum; but still seem to have the idea that it should be like the museum. Without regard so much of the people living there.

  3. greg urbano
    December 31, 2010 @ 2:49 pm

    most places have the iconic location that is a must see, your first visit to paris, must see – the eiffel tower, cliche yes, must see yes, traditional or authentic or both?

    • Andrew
      January 2, 2011 @ 2:09 pm

      There is a point to this that certain things are must see. Some stuff is touristy and popular for a reason. Though not to let it overwhelm a trip.
      I guess I didn’t think about this ‘must see’ sightseeing as a part of the authentic versus traditional. If anything the sites are sometimes neither. The Eiffel Tower was built before 1900, but in that time has become intertwined with the image of Paris. Climbing up a tower doesn’t strike me though as either this idea of the experience travel being authentic or traditional. It is an interesting idea. Thanks, i’ll have to ponder more.

  4. Laura
    December 31, 2010 @ 1:55 am

    Love this post. I am notorious (several people have pointed it out to me) for going to ‘discover’ a new place and eating at the same place every day. I love the connection more than sampling every cafe in town. I like to see the smile on someone’s face when they recognize me and catch bits of their life story. At the end of the week, hopefully I can string these bits of info together and feel like I’ve really connected with someone. I went to a small village in Laos and ate every single meal for 5 days at the same restaurant. That’s my type of experience.

    • Andrew
      January 2, 2011 @ 2:00 pm

      I’m glad you do this too. I have done this mostly in Italy, but is my habit when I am in a place more than a few days. I totally agree it makes you feel like some sort of connection

  5. MaryAnne
    December 28, 2010 @ 12:56 pm

    Oh, indeed yes. Well put. I’ve reached the point in my life when I think that pretty much anything is authentic, in its own way. Even a copy of something is an authentic copy. Too many layers to that onion. Have you read Gerald the Bear’s discussion on this? It was prompted by my weeks and weeks worth of conversations with Unbravegirl on this subject. I think we all burst around the same time.

    Gerald the Bear’s take on things: http://www.ephemeraanddetritus.com/2010/12/28/aint-i-a-bear-gerald-the-bear-tackles-authenticity-and-place/

    • Andrew
      December 29, 2010 @ 6:46 pm

      Thanks for the link Mary Anne. That is brilliantly written.
      It is a fascinating subject. The mental attitudes that people take traveling with them. Especially when you try to consider that these are the attitudes they walk around with all the time, not just traveling.

  6. A Sunny Christmas | Ali's Adventures
    December 28, 2010 @ 5:39 am

    […] Traveler – Authentic vs Traditional  Andy writes about the ongoing debate of finding and experiencing “authentic” travel […]

  7. Sally
    December 28, 2010 @ 2:19 am

    I like this post a lot. I think I tried to say a lot of this stuff in my piece but never got around to it because I was too busy rambling and whining about villages selling Pepsi.
    I especially like what you say about expectations. I think the reason why I was so disappointed by my traditional-village-that-sells-Pepsi experience was because it wasn’t what I had been expecting. Plus, I was new to Thailand and hadn’t heard similar stories of tourists being duped into going to these fake villages so I didn’t even know these things existed. Now, I’d actually be curious to go back to one of these places just to see how I feel about it now that I know what I’m getting into (but I probably won’t… as it’s expensive & I’d rather spend my money on cookies… yep, I’m all about the authentic experience!).
    A year or so ago, I went to a small town in Japan that is sometimes referred to as “The Colonial Williamsburg of Japan.” The town is full of quaint old buildings and traditional restaurants and such. This being Japan it was also full of tourist buses, parking lots and vending machines. But because I had lived in Japan for a while and knew what to expect (it’s pretty much a given that anywhere you go in Japan, there will be a vending machine), I didn’t care. In fact, I loved it. My friend and I took pictures of the “Ye Olde Parking Lot” and the “Ye Olde Vending Machine” and the “Ye Olde Hello Kitty Shop.” Talk about authentic!
    What was MY point? (Loved that sub-heading in your post… I should start doing that!). I’m not sure. Plus, I think you already said it better than me.
    P.S. Love the photo caption, too. Hilarious!

    • Andrew
      December 29, 2010 @ 6:41 pm

      Thanks for the comment. I’m glad you liked my take on your subject. Thank you for the inspiration.
      Yeah, i think expectations figures really heavily into the authentic debate. It ends up affecting how we see things. Poverty exists in most places, why it is quaint sometimes and disturbing or worse ignorable in others?
      That place in japan sounds awesome. I love the idea of seeing Japanese tour in their own country. It strikes me as fun even though i don’t know why. OO i saw a video about a vending machine that sells live(!!) crab. I think it was Japan, but could have been China.

      I like doing the subheadings.. it means I can add some humor. It kind of comes from some half-remembered watchings of Rocky and Bulwinkle.

      • MaryAnne
        December 30, 2010 @ 7:15 am

        In case Google didn’t answer your question, the crabs in a vending machine were in Nanjing, China- not far from me here in Shanghai. China blows my mind sometimes, and not for any of the picture postcard reasons!

        • Andrew
          December 30, 2010 @ 6:21 pm

          I didn’t get to googling it, but thanks for the update. It is freaky. I remember a time when I was blown away that you could buy memory sticks and blank CD Roms in the vending machine at the university library.

          • MaryAnne
            December 30, 2010 @ 11:39 pm

            You can? Wow. I’ve been away from modern academia for far too long… here we have chalkboards and the kids scratch notes on slate. Just kidding. About the slate. Kind of.

          • Andrew
            January 2, 2011 @ 1:58 pm

            Yeah I actually would kind of think that the CDs are gone, but maybe not as some of the professors wanted ‘turnins’ still instead of email. That was my masters degree in 2006 when we saw the vending machines. It was actually a lifesaver too. We were having laptop issues. I still remembering trying to find a spot where we could sit down and still get to the wifi in the library. I think we ended up in a hallway because al the tables were taken.

  8. Ali
    December 28, 2010 @ 2:17 am

    Well said. The “touristy” things are touristy for a reason, they’re great things to see or experience. I understand the need to experience something unique that maybe no one has experienced before, whether it’s for bragging rights or simply just to do something that doesn’t come with expectations. But the important thing to do is whatever makes you feel good about the trip you’re on and not worry about how on or off the beaten path it is. We’re all looking for different things when we travel, and everyone comes away with something different from even the same destinations.

    • Andrew
      December 29, 2010 @ 6:36 pm

      Yeah some things are popular for a reason, usually because they are good/interesting. This isn’t necessarily the same as being “touristy”, but I get what you mean.